One, a nightly news segment from Texas, shows how increased demand for donor milk has left some cancer patients unable to obtain it. But the parts that got me a little choked up were interviews with a cancer survivor and the mother of a premature baby born at 2 lbs. Some comments are below, but it's really worth watching this clip.
[Dr. Don] Bauer had a cancerous tumor in his right vocal chord, severe enough to cut off his airway. Surgeons removed it, leaving him with a hole in his neck to talk and breathe.
"So I was bent on getting better. No matter what," he said, wiping his eyes. But he didn't get better.
Bauer lost 35 pounds in one week, and his diabetes made recovery almost impossible. Then he discovered a new remedy: a mother's breast milk.
"It's just a boost of energy, and it's not like drinking an energy drink or a couple cups of quick coffee, but a slow process of feeling good," he said...
Dr. June Meymand runs a cancer center and says breast milk protects her patients' healthy cells, while killing the cancer at same time.
"What actually causes the damage to the body will be carried out through the intestine and will not become active," she said.
The second is a report from Australia documenting the presence of stem cells in breastmilk. I remember reading a discussion of this in an article in 2006, in which breastmilk stem cells were described as "an important but so far unappreciated live, functional component of breast milk." Looks like they're getting their due now:
[Dr. Mark Kregan and] his team cultured cells from human breast milk and found a population that tested positive for the stem cell marker, nestin. Further analysis showed that a side population of the stem cells were of multiple lineages with the potential to differentiate into multiple cell types. This means the cells could potentially be “reprogrammed” to form many types of human tissue...
“We have shown these cells have all the physical characteristics of stem cells. What we will do next is to see if they behave like stem cells,” he says.
If so, they promise to provide researchers with an entirely ethical means of harvesting stem cells for research without the debate that has dogged the harvesting of cells from embryos.